A Glossary for Freelancers

In the beginning of a career, freelancers often fail to realize they need to properly interpret job ads, calls for writers and other important communications designed to lure you into a life of making money in your pajamas. Fortunately, we’re here to help. Have a look at this handy vocabulary list and keep these definitions–assembled in no particular order– in mind when you read the next set of writer’s guidelines, a call for submissions or writing contest rules:

Freelancer: Someone with a large supply of alcohol and no steady employment.

Freelance Writer: Someone with a large supply of alcohol, no steady employment, and a website.

Submission Guidelines: A list of Byzantine rules designed to weed out lazy writers, chumps, and noobs. Any disregard for the arcane demands of the guidelines are quickly round-filed with a low, evil laugh.

Exposure: Editor-speak for “no pay”.

Coffee: A performance-enhancing drug.

Writing Instructor: A freelance writer who has enough clients or good paying gigs to turn down paying assignments to hold court for little or no pay.

Zombie: A freelance writer who stops working for the evening.

Writers Wanted: An incomplete sentence which should be fully rendered thus: “Writers wanted for low pay.”

Objectivity: A term sometimes used by magazine editors, roughly translated as “matching viewpoints”.

College degree preferred: A term commonly found in job posts by high-profile media companies such as NPR, CBS, NBC, etc. When found in less prestigious publications, websites or media companies, should be rendered “Writer sought by people who don’t understand the business of writing.”

Multi-tasking: A learned skill. The ability to tell several lies at once about the status of multiple projects.

Telecommuting: The act of working until 7PM without showering or brushing one’s teeth.

Cell Phone: A tool used to enslave creative people to their cruel masters.

Sleep: A five-hour vacation from freelance work.

4 thoughts on “A Glossary for Freelancers”

  1. O.M.G. that was great. You so nailed every one of these – going to link to this because I know people are going to laugh just as hard as I did.

    Thanks for the chuckle!

  2. Overall the post was great, but I am going to have to beg to differ about the, “College degree preferred.” entry. What you need depends a lot on what you are doing. As a technical writer a lot of what I do is based on my education. I would wager that it has to be the same for freelancers in a lot of other areas like Medical writing, legal writing, finical writing, ect….

    I’m not saying you have to have a college degree to be a good writer in general, just that you need to think about this one a little further, in some areas it does matter.

  3. Hi Kate,

    Great point on technical writing requiring a college degree—I would totally agree that this is the exception (a great big one) to the rule…and that’s one area where skilled writers can really take advantage of their experience level to get in and make a difference.

    I will point out that my reference in this context was aimed squarely at media and print pubs rather than technical writing gigs, but your point is definitely relevant, and any freelancer with a degree–especially one where the skill set is in demand –should consider putting those skills to work 🙂

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